Vaccination against the flu.
(photo credit: CLALIT HEALTH SERVICES)
The Health Ministry has decided to revoke its decision not to vaccinate children in the north against influenza due to the shortage of public health nurses forced to work for low salaries. A special subcommittee of the Knesset Children’s Rights Committee was outraged over the ministry’s intention to discriminate against the periphery.
Committee chairman MK Yifat Shasha- Biton (Kulanu) said on Monday: “No one would have thought of immunizing children only in the periphery, not in the center... Why does the opposite happen?”
Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen added: “Residents of the periphery lives, on average, four years less than those who live in the center of the country. The children of the north and the south must be brought to the Knesset to demonstrate. It does not make sense for these children to enlist in the army, [when] in fourth grade we don’t pay attention to them. I was a cabinet minister, and I know that when a minister wants to find a budget of $2 million, he can find it. Why don’t the education minister and the [deputy] health minister sit together to find a budget?”
Schoolchildren in the south will, in fact, get flu vaccinations at school, because the Health Ministry, pressured by public health interests, decided a few years ago to replace public health nurses who work for contractors with nurses who work for the government at higher pay. Even so, there is still a shortage of public health nurses. In the rest of the country, those who vaccinate in schools work for private companies.
MK Leah Fadida (Zionist Union) said: “If the decision to discriminate against vaccinations has been accepted by Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, he must resign immediately.”
The ministry’s official in charge of public health, Dr. Rivka Sheffer, said: “The problem is caused by the fact that salaries of contractors’ public health nurses are the lowest of all nurses. We plan to deal with the matter in discussions with the Nurses’ Union. In the south, there is a shortage of nurses’ manpower slots. We are asking for equalization of salaries so that nurses will choose to work in the field.”
Sheffer said that in the end, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman decided that all children may get flu shots in schools, but she did not explain how this could be accomplished.
In any case, families can bring their children of any age to their own health fund for free flu vaccinations.
“Since we started giving flu vaccine to school children,” said Orly Avraham, chief nurse in the Ashkelon district health office, “the number of abnormal events and mistakes made reached a very alarming peak. I interview nurses endlessly and can say that [only] one out of 40 is willing to come to work with us – and if she has survived with us for a whole year, this is a real achievement,” Avraham concluded.